Twist of Fate: A Tale of Hidden Identities
Best Actress/ New Horizons Competition- By the looks of it, Qissa starts off like any folk tale. Set amidst the ethnic cleansing and general chaos that is postwar colonial India, Qissa is a timeless and poignant story of a family that challenges fate. Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan) is a man of true grit, who longs for a son. His wife Mehar (Tisca Chopra) is pregnant with her fourth baby and after bearing three girls, fears the fate of her unborn child. Umber has made his mind up; their fourth child will be a son no matter what. Veiled identities, family secrets and by the looks of it, an eerie sense of the supernatural make up the bulk of this period drama.
Starting life from scratch after being uprooted from his village across the border, Umber Singh and his family are now in a safer locale. Little do they realize that their lives are about to change forever. Although the arrival of their fourth child coincides merrily with their move and calls for a celebration, there is one problem: the child is a girl. Umber is so obsessed with having a son, he is tragically blind to the reality of his own child. He becomes a man destroyed by his own impulses.
Kanwar, the daughter who is raised as a boy is portrayed wonderfully by Tillotama Shome. Her love interest in the film is the feisty Neeli (Rasika Dugal), who is a lower-caste Gypsy girl and Kanwar’s future wife and confidante. Each character in the film has a story to tell and a secret to hide, adding layers of mystery to Qissa.
The predominantly Punjabi film is director Anup Singh’s homage to his own heritage. As a Sikh born in Tanzania, he was inspired by his family’s struggles with the forced displacement. Singh has delivered a film immediately accessible to anyone sensitive to the conflicts that drive classic stories: fear versus ambition, individual need versus social codes. Qissa (the title is derived from the Arabic word for “story”) is where individual ambition and destinies collide in a struggle with eternity.